PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5 ) - Hospitals are struggling with staffing right now- and the looming holiday season has health care workers worried there won't be enough staff to keep up with COVID-19 patients and other illnesses. So hospitals are desperately trying to get travel nurses here now. But it's easier said than done.
Hospital workers want one thing: to be prepared for winter and to do that, they need more staff- stat. "Nurses are still being stretched three to one in some ICUs in the Valley," said Dr. Sam Durrani, chief of staff and surgeon at several Valley hospitals. "The last two to three weeks, we've seen a steep increase in hospitalizations, especially the last week."
Durrani said burnout among nurses leaving the profession isn't helping their staffing problems, so he said the state needs to act on travel nurses now before the holidays. "States that were doing poorly and we were competing with for resources before are not in that situation, so I think it's critical right now Arizona needs to seize this opportunity and lock up travel nurses," Durrani said.
"The problem is there's a national shortage right now," said Ann-Marie Alameddin, president and CEO of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association. She said the hospitals work with staffing agencies to hire the travel nurses, but they're in such high demand already that finding them can be tough.
And that's leading to another issue. "The problem that we've seen recently is that hospitals might have a contract with a staffing agency for a number of nurses, and then those nurses just don't show up for their assignment," said Alameddin.
Because travel nurses are in such high demand, they have their pick of going to which hospital will pay them the most, making extremely high salaries for weeks to months at a time at an assignment. "You could have nurses, traveling nurses, that are making double if not triple that a bedside nurse might be making," said Alameddin. "Where it might have been $50 an hour for a traveling nurse, we might have over $200 an hour for a traveling nurse."
Arizona's largest health care system, Banner Health, is short 1,400 nurses.
Dr. Durrani said right now, 90% of their COVID-19 patients in the hospital are unvaccinated. But it's not just the likely COVID-19 surge that health care workers are worried about - it's also the winter flu surges they expect to see too.